Endless Thoughts and Prayers

Who can honestly say they’re surprised that America had yet another mass shooting? It’s simply a way of life here to log on to social media and find out about the latest massacre, numbly check to see if it is near anyone we love, and watch the body count and the number of injured rise as the reports come in.

In a twisted way I’m getting used to the massacres from domestic terrorists, but what infuriates me now is how the GOP incessantly invokes Thoughts and Prayers after each fresh dose of hell.

Praying is a highly personal thing between you and your God, and is not a replacement for doing your job – whomever you are. Hiding behind God while you refuse to do your duty is an affront to truly spiritual people who do not use their religion as a prop.

For most people Thoughts and Prayers is shorthand for, “I’m powerless to stop this from happening, and I’m asking the Omnipotent Being of my choice to show mercy on this untenable situation.”

But Congress isn’t powerless to change the situation, and they CAN change the law to require the stricter background checks that 90% of Americans are demanding. They could make gun owners responsible for not securing their guns, or require liability insurance. But, they simply refuse to take any action because there’s too much money gushing in from the NRA.

So, when the GOP offers Thoughts and Prayers it’s just weasel-speak for: “It’s out of my hands because I’m going to keep taking contributions soaked in the life-blood of kindergartners and concert goers – but I will ask my God to keep you in His thoughts.”

For the GOP to proudly proclaim that they’ve given a Thought – they’re THINKING  – about something the rest of us can’t get out of our heads, is *stunningly* self-absorbed.

But, I can’t even wrap my brain around the unmitigated NERVE it takes for the GOP to demand God do the heavy lifting when they refuse to vote on bills that have been introduced. How DARE they pretend God has ANYTHING to do with their addiction to Russian blood money laundered through the NRA!

The GOP’s Thoughts and Prayers about domestic terrorists who mow down classmates, co-workers, and worshipers like an edger takes out errant weeds is an infuriating waste of time. Republicans cynically conflate praying with actually doing something, and pretend they aren’t blocking legislation that would prevent future massacres.

Logical people can see that these massacres aren’t happening in other developed nations on the scale that they are here. Look at Canada, Australia or the UK: We speak the same language, have roughly the same religious demographics, the same number of single parents, and marriage equality. We share television content, video games and music. Yet our murder-by-gun rate is 30 times higher than the UK, and our overall murder rate is higher than all three other nations combined. What’s different? The ease with which one can obtain a gun, and the number of weapons of war available to the general public.

The USA has only 5% of the world’s population, but owns 30% of its guns (1.03 per person). Yet, only 1% of Americans belong to the NRA, which dictates the murderous gun policies the GOP backs. Republicans have filled their coffers with dark Russian cash, while allowing a dismissible fraction of our population to codify their fetish into our laws.
Homice Rate USA UK AUS CAN

 

So, really, when ANY politician (Democrats, too) takes blood money from the NRA and offers the mealy-mouthed phrase “Thoughts and Prayers” about the inevitable NEXT GODDAM SCHOOL SHOOTING, what they’re really saying is, “There’s nothing I will do. Ever.”

Frankly, I’m done debating the indisputable facts that a vast majority of Americans want tighter background checks, or that we have a glut of guns here, or that school shootings don’t happen in other countries like they do here.

I’m tired of people re-framing the need to reduce our gun violence with the notion we must stop all other forms of murder or violence before we tackle the dumpster fire of our gun laws.

I’m sick of answering disingenuous arguments with, “Yes, certainly, vehicles can be used for mass murder. They are also regulated, and insured, and their primary function is for transportation, not for killing people.”

I have precious little patience for those who unironically screech about their ‘god given right’ to the 2nd Amendment, while never comprehending the word amendment literally means ‘change’, and the word god is not in the Bill of Rights. There’s a reason ‘Well Regulated’ comes before ‘Shall Not Be Infringed’, and it’s not that difficult a concept to grasp that Americans are solidly behind weapon’s of war being ‘Well Regulated’ by a margin of 9-1.

I’m SURE as hell over those people stupid enough to argue for anarchy with, “Why pass laws when criminals won’t follow them?” They seem unable to grok that since the police manage to take so many of the white male mass murderers into custody, it’s super helpful to be able to prosecute them, and make them pay for their crimes.

In short: I’m over the excuses for why our schools are war zones, and we have more than one mass shooting a day in America.

Thoughts and Prayers are all well and good as a means to spiritual fulfillment, but they do nothing to change the very real gun crisis in this country. The only way we can break the endless cycle of Republican Thoughts and Prayers will be when We The People force change through activism and elections, and not by demanding God cure the illness we created ourselves.

Screw Thoughts and Prayers – You need to VOTE, dammit.

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The Education of Broseph P Entitlement

I read an abusive Fragile White Male (FWM) the riot act this morning – and it was glorious.

My illness has endowed me with a certain fearlessness in dealing with bullies. I urge *you* not to wait to speak up.

Scene: Interior of a busy Doctor’s Office, where several patients wait in chairs

Two female Medical Assistants are behind the counter: One Assistant is making a first appointment on the telephone with a new patient, while a patient waits in front of her to check out. The other Assistant is patiently explaining to Broseph P Entitlement, a sullen 30-something Fragile White Male in a too-tight V-necked sweater, how it is impossible to know how much his bill will be for today’s visit until after it is submitted to his insurance and they pay their portion. She keeps explaining this simple tenant of health insurance that he keeps pretending he doesn’t understand.

“Yes, but, YOU didn’t tell me that when I made the appointment,” Broseph P reprimands this woman who is old enough to be his mother. Her mouth smiles blandly at him, while her clear eyes do not, and she begins to explain to him again that what he pays is dependent upon what his insurance will pay, and that is spelled out in his insurance contract.

“I don’t *understand* how you can run a business like this!” Broseph P gets loud – and the Medical Assistant on the phone needs to end the call because it’s getting hard to hear, and she checks out the man in front of her.

“Why won’t you do this for me? Why are you being so difficult?” Brospeh P whines.

A middle-aged woman who is there to find out how much her lung function has decreased in the last 6 weeks – let’s call her Claudia – has been watching the performance and is giving heavy side-eye to an oblivious Broseph P. She steps up to the Medical Assistant who was on the phone, and rolls her eyes meaningfully as she checks in, getting in return a look that says ‘Right?’

“You gave me this story when I made the appointment that the tests could run anywhere from $200 to $1,200!! How can you NOT KNOW how much your own tests cost?!!” he continues far too loudly.

“Sir – I know what the tests cost, but I had no idea what tests the doctor would order. It’s not ONE test that is $200 to $1,200 – the different allergy tests he orders all have different costs, as the literature we sent you pointed out.”

Claudia leans in and says soto voce, “How come you can’t tell me how much my whole meal will cost before I’ve even ordered anything?!!” and the Medical Assistant checking her in stifles a chuckle.

“I have a balance from January I need to pay,” Claudia says in a normal voice, as Broseph P pumps up the volume about how UNFAIR it all is. Claudia finds that February’s appointment has processed through as well, and hands over her debit card to take care of the balance for both months.

Broseph P is nearly shouting, enjoying that people are uncomfortable, and starting to stare. “It makes no sense that you have no explanation of what happened today!! This sheet is just numbers and letters. How can you call this an itemized bill?!”

“This is what we submit to the insurance company, the bill you get in the mail will be itemized in a way you can read.”

Claudia is handed back her debit card and given the receipt to sign.

“How do I know you’re not ripping me off?! This is ridiculous – I won’t leave here without an itemized bill, and until I know what I owe.”

“I’ve worked here 16 years, sir, and you’re the first patient I’ve had this issue with,” said the Medical Assistant with the patience of a saint.

At that point Broseph P turbocharged his rage, racing past being loud and obnoxious, and hitting a new land speed record for being flat out abusive. “Yeah? Well, I don’t think you know what you’re doing. YOU aren’t very smart and you don’t know what you’re doing!! How do you stay employed? Why haven’t they fired you?”

Claudia could not bear another moment of hearing Broseph P Entitlement abuse the kind people at one of the only doctor’s offices left in this cold world who still treated her like a human being, and not a Dead Woman Walking. She snapped.

“Oh my god – SHUT. UP!!  Seriously: Give it a rest!!! You’re being an abusive asshole!!”

The collective look of shock on everyone’s face was supremely satisfying to Claudia.

Broseph P made a face like he was smelling spoiled milk, and began to open his mouth, but before he could let more garbage tumble out Claudia continued with righteous indignation, her arm stretched out in the classic ‘Talk to the Hand’ pose, “There is no *reason* for you to speak to her that way. None.

“You’re abusing her because you don’t understand how your own insurance works. It’s not HER fault you didn’t read the fine fucking print!!”

Suddenly employees from all over the office began popping up around the reception area like curious prairie dogs, eager not to miss the excitement. Every waiting patient had looked up from their phone.

Claudia leaned towards Broseph P, never breaking eye contact, “Here’s the thing: I don’t work here, so nobody’s going to fire me when I tell you how much of an entitled little douche-bag asshole you are. You’re bullying this woman because you don’t like how the insurance YOU CHOSE works, and you can’t seem to grasp that the system is based on diagnostic codes they submit for reimbursement, and not the handwritten explanation [Here Claudia briefly broke into flawless Valley Girl-speak]‘Broseph had some itchies we tried to figure out, K? Thx.’

“What is *wrong* with you that you think you’re entitled to treat people that way? I have NEVER spoken to a medical professional the way you’ve just been doing for the last 10 minutes, and my life *revolves* around begging insurance companies and doctors to allow me to have the treatments that keep me alive.

“That bill I just paid is for my January and February appointments – that’s how it works!! You go to the doctor, and 6 weeks later you get a bill telling you what your responsibility is. You’ll get a bill, too – trust me on this, Brah. You’ll get a bill. You always do – they never forget.

“I spent $30,000 out of pocket last year on medical expenses just to stay alive, and you’re up her ass because you don’t have your $200 FUCKING BILL TODAY? Are you fucking kidding me?!! Let. It. Go!!

“I went to the doctor 124 times last year, and I had 81 radiation treatments. I spent every third day in a doctor’s office or a hospital, and I’ve seen a shit-ton of disputes about bills and insurance. I have NEVER seen anyone act so pathetically entitled and make it so very personal the way you just did. You’re a healthy man standing here arguing just so you can bully women who can’t talk back because they don’t want to lose their job. What the *fuck* is wrong with you that you need to do that to feel like a man? Don’t you have some puppies you can go kick, you entitled douche-bro asshole?”

Broseph’s mouth was partially open as Claudia took the clipboard from the stunned Medical Assistant who was helping her, and she pleasantly said, “I’ll update my info and get this right back to you.”

You could have heard a pin drop on the carpeting.

“So.. then… I’ll get an itemized bill in the mail?” Broseph said, looking around the waiting room to see if even one face was encouraging him, but all the other patients were busy texting about the dramatic spectacle that had unfolded before them.

As Broseph P beat his retreat Claudia tried to stare him in the eye, but he avoided her gaze, all the while knowing in his secret heart that he was still the Smartest Boy In The Room.

When Claudia was called back for her appointment she was applauded by the staff and the Doctor shook her hand. The abused Medical Assistant hugged her hard, and the Respiratory Therapist said it was the finest, funniest thing she had witnessed in a dozen years of practice.

Claudia pondered the moment and realized: You take your wins where you can get them.

End scene.

 

 

Heroin Junkies and Trump Humpers

We are in a Constitutional Crisis, and this last week has laid bare the truth that Putin stole the presidency for Trump, with an assist from billionaires who have been buying our government for the last few decades.

Trump’s unhinged Rage Tweets this morning point to dark days ahead. Dare I say the words Civil war?

We’re really already there emotionally, and isn’t this all that matters?

We’re already at war with each other – there’s not a one of us who hasn’t seen a loved one drink Trump’s Kool-Aid. I have a neighbor of 16 years who hasn’t spoken to me since 2015 because I dared to tell her that putting Muslims in internment camps was morally wrong and violated the Constitution.

Quite simply: Trump Humpers live in a reality of their own making where inconsistencies abound and facts are discarded. A reality flush with conspiracies, and where a porn star who was paid $130K in hush money is lying about having an affair with Trump, AND he has every right to sue her for $20 million for talking about the affair they didn’t have.

You cannot reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into, and there is no negotiating with people who aren’t just willfully ignorant, but aggressively wrong.

Trump Humpers delight in cognitive dissonance and nothing makes them happier than calling up down, just to see the look on your face. They will NEVER let go of this new reality. Never. They are too far invested in their flat-earth, fact free existence. They are as hopeless as a heroin junky.

The ideological clash among Americans is intractable – there is no way to compromise: Either you believe in equality for all, or you are actively working to deny people their rights, and turn the clock back to the Reconstruction era. There is no middle ground.

Add to that the reality that Trump is making the office of President into a dictatorship. Make no mistake: Trump does not intend to leave the office, and intends to install Ivanka after him.

His goal is unvarnished and laid bare for all to see. I don’t know if the Presidency will ever recover, and surely not in my lifetime.

I will be surprised if Trump allows the midterms to proceed, and he will likely use the excuse of ‘Russian meddling’ to suspend them – and Trump Humpers will nod with glazed eyes, greedily accepting this new reality like the junkies they are.

It’s time to accept that Trump recognizes no rules or laws but his own. To continue to deny this is dangerous and dabbles in Trump Humper wishful thinking.

It’s time to face the bitter cup before us: The Constitution no longer holds force in this country, and America is now a fascist authoritarian regime.

To make that horrifying reality worse – we are under daily attack by Putin, and Trump refuses to stop him. Putin has control of our power grid, our water processing plants and our aviation facilities -he could cripple us with a keystroke. We are at his mercy – and he has none. Yet, somehow people think he can’t control our voting machines, or he hasn’t been manipulating us to fight each other. Putin is like the villain in Stephen King’s novel Needful Things – and he’s just getting warmed up. Of course Putin was assisted in his role by Roger Ailes and Fox Spews, who tuned up the crowd for a decade and a half.

We were invaded by Russia with GOP assistance. Putin has the GOP’s peckers in his pocket through blackmail via the RNC email hack, and laundered cash from the NRA. He especially owns McConnell and Ryan because they direct most of those monies. That’s why they take no action against either Trump or Putin. We have traitors in all levels of the government.

Putin, the Mercers, the Koch brothers, and about 400 other people are using Trump to Balkanize the United States of America. They are terrifyingly close to getting their wish of having the US be a geographical collection of fiefdoms based on natural resource extraction.

These people produce nothing, and only seek to gorge on the riches of the earth, its people, and ultimately each other – they are an insatiable ouroboros. They’re sick, and they’re in charge. Doubtless they’ve been told they’ll have their place at the Oligarch’s table when America is in flames. I don’t know about you, but I can smell smoke.

Wrap your head around this: Rexxon Valdez Tillerson, the man responsible for unfettered greed and despoiling the planet with his 3 decades in Big Oil was *too liberal* for Trump. A man who raped the earth and built his fortune on pollution and misery was simply not extreme enough for Trump.

That is how far the Overton Window has been pushed to the right.

That we are not meeting in the streets, but are sitting stunned tells me bad things are to come. The fuse is burning, and the backlash will be like a big earthquake instead of 3 mild ones that take the pressure off of the fault.

Trump is fighting like a cornered animal, and he’s even more dangerous now than he’s ever been. He will do things that will create chaos in a way that will make the last year look like comedic relief.

He is capable of anything – and I do mean ANYTHING.

I could see a time in the not too distant future when states like California refuse to remit their federal tax monies because Trump does something to try to ruin them the way he has done to hundreds of people. Think Puerto Rico-like damage on the mainland inflicted by him. He is entirely capable of killing his own people BECAUSE HE’S DONE IT BEFORE.

I think it’s time we review 10 Absolutes About Abusers:

  1. You aren’t human – you’re expendable chattel without rights
  2. Your opinion, wants and needs are punishable offenses
  3. You are expected to follow rules and display manners that they deny exist
  4. You will NEVER get them to acknowledge facts
  5. They will never, ever, EVER admit they are wrong
  6. They will steal from you while insisting you’re a duplicitous thief
  7. They will lie so boldly and confidently that you will question your sanity
  8. They enjoy your pain even more when you tell them how much it hurts
  9. They will not stop until they control you completely and capriciously
  10. Anything they can’t control completely they will ceaselessly try to destroy

It’s crucial for you to burn these into your brain, because things are coming down to the wire. It’s not long until the powder keg blows, and it is vital to remember the value you have to Trump, his Humpers, the 400 and Putin: None.

It is time for us all to accept what is happening to America – for us to deal with the reality we’re in, not the one we want to be in.

Courage to us all.

Earthquake Imaginings

Feb 9, 1971 – 6:00 am and 55 seconds. The ground begins to move.

I was 7-years-old, and fast asleep in my bed, having stayed up past my bed time watching The Wizard of Oz the night before. I awoke to the house moving violently, while the earth was making a terrible groaning noise.

At first I was convinced that – like Dorothy – my home was flying through the sky. I quickly looked out the window to see if things were going by my window, as they had in the movie, but there were no screen doors, or flying rowboats, or angry old women riding a bicycles who turned into the Wicked Witch.

A moment later I could hear my father yelling from the other end of the house, “Earthquake!!”

In the distance I heard a giant explosion – which unbeknownst to me was the $110 Million electrical switching station going up – and then the air raid sirens began to wail overhead, the eerie keening which I had been told time and again meant a nuclear attack.

I wondered: Was an earthquake part of the Russian’s attack? During all the air raid drills in elementary school no-one ever thought to mention California was prone to earthquakes.

I had no idea what to do. I was paralyzed in fear.

So, I simply sat in bed watching things fall off of a 6 foot tall, heavy oak shelf on wheels that my parents called a Chifforobe. Games flew this way and that off the shelves, and books launched across the room – one hitting my nose. My bird cage fell onto my dresser and I heard the sound of shattering ceramic, as my precious collection of figurines from Disneyland took a direct hit.

The shaking got more violent, things were breaking all over the house with terrifying crashes, and the earth began to make a whistling noise to go along with the groaning.

Muffled by sound of the grinding earth and crashing glass I could barely hear my father yelling, “Get under the door!!” and I wondered if my father was stuck under a door and this was making the whole house shake.

There was a tremendous crash in the kitchen, and now things were breaking all over the house. There was more yelling – but I couldn’t tell who it was.

I sat up in bed, positively frozen in terror, watching enormous blue and white Chifforobe buck from side to side, scooting across the room on its wheels, and the water in the goldfish bowl sloshed over the lip. Had my bed and the Chiffarobe been aligned north/south, and not east/west, the giant shelving would have doubtless fallen and crushed me. Instead, I was transfixed as it jumped across the floor.

And then the shaking stopped, just like that.

My father was suddenly in my room yelling at me to get outside – and put on shoes. “Is it war?!” I shouted. “It’s an earthquake! Get out!!” he answered.

I slid my feet into the slippers by my bed, and dashed out the front door, putting on my robe under the oak tree in the front yard, in the gray, predawn light. My brothers were already outside, as they’d been folding papers for their early morning delivery routes when the quake hit.

The air raid sirens continued to wail, and I noticed water running down the street with red hyacinths floating on top. I found out later it was from the neighbor’s pool.

Then the air raid sirens stopped just as suddenly as the earthquake did, and as their echos died away I could hear the sounds of fire truck and police car sirens coming to life all over the Valley. In moments there more emergency sirens screaming than I had ever heard at once.

The whole neighborhood was in the street – everyone nervously talking and agreeing it was about the most frightening thing ANY of us had ever dealt with. We shivered in the damp, none of us quite knowing what to do, when the earth began to heave again.

The panic set in people’s eyes right away – a few threw their arms out to steady themselves, while some yelled and others screamed.

The aftershock ended just as suddenly as the quake did, and there was some uneasy laughter mixed in with the tears and prayers.

The aftershocks were a form of torture: You knew they were coming, but not when. And even though they weren’t as strong as the original quake they were only degrees of magnitude smaller. In short: It didn’t FEEL like a smaller quake, and there were hundreds that happened that day and for weeks to follow.

The neighbors who’d barely spoken to one another for years began to earnestly compare notes and trade stories about what they were doing when the quake hit. A portable transistor radio appeared and we gathered around to listen to KGIL, and Sweet Dick Wittington, who was on the air when it hit. Reports were that the damage was severe in the San Fernando Valley. As the sun rose, the gathered parents collectively agreed that school was not going to happen that day.

When it seemed the worst of the shaking was over, people began to cautiously reenter their homes to asses the damage.

The inside of our house was a hot mess. The living room looked as if someone had swept my mother’s precious nick-knacks off of the shelves where they had been carefully placed. A white ceramic bust of a nearly featureless woman she’d haggled for at the Simi Swap Meet lay in pieces, halfway across the room from where it had been perched on atop a two-tiered coffee table.

The kitchen counters and floor were strewn with broken dishes and crockery, topped with shattered glasses and mugs.  But, the worst of it was an unsecured 8-foot-tall metal pantry shelf unit that had fallen over on to the stove, denting it mightily, and creating an unholy mess. Besides ruining hundreds of dollars in dry goods, a giant bottle of cooking oil broke, along with a 3-pound jar of peanut butter and a 2 pound jar of honey, which then mixed with my mother’s entire spice collection, 5 pounds each of flour and sugar and coated the burners on the gas stove, which never worked right ever after.

Somehow we still had electricity and running water. We turned on the television to find out the extent of the damage. A terrified male news anchor provided us with the grim information, in between panic attacks every time an aftershock hit.

It took only 12 seconds, but that was all the time the Sylmar Quake needed to kill 64 people, leave more than 2,500 hurt, and cause more than half-a-billion dollars in damage. The 6.6 quake left thousands of homes in danger of being washed away should the cracking Van Norman dam not hold. The Veteran’s Administration Hospital was a complete loss, and the unreinforced concrete wings built in 1926 collapsed, killing 44.

My father got a call from the nursing home where his Aunt Margaret lived – the facility  was being evacuated because it was downstream of the Van Norman dam, and my father had to come get her NOW! My father got in his car and drove toward the failing dam to rescue my great-aunt.

The morning wore on as we waited for the return of my father. My mother began the laborious process of cleaning the kitchen and the stove, while my brothers and I wandered around in shock. We numbly cleaned up our rooms, each of us discovering treasures that were dear that were forever broken. My eldest brother went for a walk and returned with the news that the liquor store had every bottle in the store broken, and all the windows were broken at the corner grocery store. We heard there would be no school for at least 2 weeks.

My father finally returned home, along with a white haired lady in a wheel chair who stared at us with blank eyes. My father wheeled Aunt Margaret into the living room, which we had cleared of glass and ceramic fragments.

All the while the aftershocks hit, and when they did one of my brothers would race to the nearest doorway, bracing himself for the worst. The man on the television said we shouldn’t drink any water from the faucet: The only water we could drink had to be boiled or bottled. Bottled water wasn’t so much of a thing in 1971.

The phone rang again, and my father answered it. He listened for a moment and then handed it to my mother with a strange look on his face. My mother took the phone, and I remember her saying, “Today?! I just assumed…” she trailed off. “We’ll get there as soon as we can.”

She turned to me after she hung up the phone, “You need to get ready. They’re doing the Mattel shoot today, after all.”

I had completely forgotten about the photo-shoot I was booked to do that afternoon – but the clients clearly hadn’t. In fact, they were in a state of high dudgeon that I hadn’t showed, thus the call.

We drove through the San Fernando Valley and over Cahuenga Pass into Hollywood. The streets on the way were deserted, there was broken glass on the sidewalks and there were toppled walls and chimneys everywhere across the Valley.

Hollywood hadn’t taken nearly the hit Saugus, Newhall, Sylmar and the Valley had, because the fault line was far enough away. The windows were intact at the location, and the crew had done a good job cleaning up inside

The client’s nerves were stretched as thin as they would go, and I remember every time an aftershock happened there were several of them who freaked right the hell out. One client refused to stay inside, and would dart in and out of the building to check up on the photo-shoot of Mattel’s newest toy line. He demanded from a distance that the show must go on, and expected a little girl to do what he couldn’t.

I put on the red shirt and apron they had for me, and we set up the shot as the ground continued to heave and pitch. A make up man applied pancake and lipstick, and wisely waited for the aftershocks to end before quickly swiping at my eyelashes with the mascara wand. A hair stylist used a curling iron on my hair and cemented it with hairspray. The lights above us all shivered as the building moved.

The toy line was called Imaginings: It was Mattel’s first shot at educational toys, and the toy I was modeling for was called Lively Lines. The idea was to draw a picture with special markers on special paper, and then drop water on it to create a watercolor painting. The problem was the markers and the paper were expensive, and no kid could recreate the picture on the box, because it was done by a professional artist.

During the shoot I was instructed to hold a several different pictures, and pretend I’d done each one myself. We were working in the days before Photoshop, so that drop of water you see quivering at the end of the eye dropper is very real. I also remember the very real director very really threatening me NOT to let that very real water drip on the artist-painted picture, lest I ruin it. A feat that is so easy for ANY 7-year-old to do – especially while the earth below is doing its best Bronco Billy impression and the lights above are swaying and creaking.

I was forced to wait out the temblors without complaint and then turn on my apple pie smile when they were done. The Director was determined to get that cover shot TODAY!! and all he wanted to do was get on a plane and get the hell back to New York.

The photographer was a sweetheart, trying so hard to make it easier on me, engaging me, and talking me through the worst of it. But, it was utterly terrifying being forced to smile while aftershocks are happening and adults around you are freaking out.

Finally the shoot ended, and we wearily made our way home, me shaking in the passenger seat from the exhaustion born of fear, and feeling miffed that I hadn’t gotten to take any swag. Why – they had hundreds of sheets of paper and dozens of pens, and I hadn’t gotten to take any! It never occurred to me they were proprietary and Mattel wouldn’t want the competition seeing the product before it came to market.

There was no hot water at home to wash the heavy pancake make-up off, or to wash out the stiff hairspray that kept the curls in my pony-tail nearly bulletproof. The water heater went to meet it’s maker during the quake, so I sat shivering in a tub of tan colored room temperature water, feeling the grit and dirt that had settled on bottom of the tub. It was glorious when my mother rinsed me off with water she had warmed on the stove. But, I could still feel the grit on my skin as she rubbed me down with a towel.

I went to bed accompanied by the aftershocks that would last until the following month.

The Imaginings line was released that November, just in time for Christmas and toy lust. Ultimately, the marketing folks at Mattel went with a very serious face on the box: You can see a little girl creating a masterpiece, carefully holding the picture, eyedropper in hand, lost in thought. I’m certain the straight-to-the-camera smiling shots taken that afternoon had a distinctive Crazy-Eyes look from the fear – which is just perfect for selling toys.

It’s been nearly 50 years since the earthquake – and back then animals had greater protection in Hollywood than children did. Will you be shocked to hear that a half a century hasn’t changed the dynamics much, and that Lassie still gets treated better than Timmy?

Imagine!! Why – it just shakes me up.

 

Imaginings 2

Broseph and the Amazing Fragile White Male Dreamcoat

There is nothing funnier – and more pathetic – than a Fragile White Male becoming abusive when you point out that they’re not nearly as Woke, nor as much of an Ally, as they think they are.

Fragile White Males (not to be confused with Men) continually demand women acknowledge that they’ve been a ‘Good Guy’ as we are trying to process the latest indignity that’s befallen us, or when we’re disgusted with the latest famous or powerful man revealed to have been abusing his position and the women around him.

Usually it’s presented as Not All Men: a hashtag or sentiment FWMs feel obliged to remind women of when they speak of or point out the indignities of sexual harassment and sexism in school, the workplace, and public, or (worse) the soul crushing burden of rape and sexual assault.

“Not ALL Men!” the Fragile White Males have insisted again and again since #MeToo broke in earnest. “‘But *I* didn’t rape anyone! I’d never sexually harass a woman,” they repeat, needing you to know and demanding you acknowledge it. It’s exhausting.

If there’s any push back by women, or we have the temerity to tell men they’re re-framing the conversation to make themselves more comfortable, it almost always ends up with the Fragile White Male offended to the point of a having a temper tantrum, and that tantrum often turns into spewing abuse when you don’t soothe their fragile ego.

A textbook case of a Fragile White Male hijacking the conversation and shrieking #NotAllMen!! happened the other day, when my friend Tawanda (a perfect pseudonym for this fierce and strong woman)  posted on her Facebook page that she and her husband were skipping their usual Superbowl party. (Note that in the following exchange OP refers to Original Post, JT is Justin Timberlake, and the screen caps show the actual back-and-forth with nothing cherry-picked for sensationalism.)

Tawanda begins the conversation with this post:

 

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I watched the video Tawanda posted, an encouraging 80-second clip where Smith talks about choosing to be with people who will fan your flames of creativity, and not piss on them.

I was about to type, “So much THIS!!” when I looked at the third comment down, posted by Broseph, and it felt like getting a thumb poked in my eye. See if you can spot Broseph’s subtle re-framing in his opening gambit.

 

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Why, yes – he WAS white. How did you guess? Is it because he sounds so Fragile?

I knew as I typed out my response that the Fragile White Male’s fee-fees would be hurt if I tried to clue him in to his transgression. Fragile White Males who take well to hearing how they could be a better Ally are unicorns – that’s why they’re Fragile White Males.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t give a flying fuck anymore about Fragile White Male’s tender fee-fees. Half a century of clapping hands for every morsel of respect they accidentally let fall off the table isn’t cutting it for me anymore.

These days I give Fragile White Males and their feelings EXACTLY as much respect as they give me and mine.

 

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As expected Broseph’s answer was sulky and pontifical. But, before I checked back in to Facebook he decided it wasn’t enough and posted again, aggrandizing himself and strangely attempting to insult me with a patronizing gif.

 

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I wish I could say I was surprised, but Fragile White Males are so damned predictable.

I grinned broadly at Broseph’s lack of reading comprehension skills, and his refusing to acknowledge that the subject WAS NOT, in fact, Justin Timberlake’s diverse fucking fan base.  Clearly, Tawanda’s point was that the Manly Men in attendance would use Timberlake’s performance as an excuse to morph into Douchecus Maximus, and she wasn’t going to waste her precious time on these people.

Note how this fine specimen of a Fragile White Male blithely ignores his re-framing a statement about inherent sexism driving a mutual friend away from her years-long Superbowl tradition, and instead insists we acknowledge his diversity. Even better? Broseph ignoring Tawanda’s liking my post (with a heart, no less) to give himself permission to blow up with indignity.

 

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I laughed when I read his second message. I could see the Fragile White Male huffing behind his keyboard, wrapping his unearned righteous-indignation around him like a well-worn woolen cloak.

 

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Take a moment to savor that whole Ball o’ Privilege and Fragility, while Irony unplugs the phone and weeps like Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.

“I am about as supportive of any issues of any gender or sex as you’ll find a man to be.”

The fucking ego it takes to even think that way.

You could launch a Space-X rocket from the platform of self-importance that big.

Can you imagine thinking so very much of yourself? Or, more likely, not being able to imagine anyone acting better than you, and chalking up your own shortcomings to being the BEST anyone could find a man to be.

Then, to PROVE what a supportive MAN he was, he posted a patronizing gif  telling me to ‘Simma Down Now’. I was really disappointed he didn’t tell me I’d be prettier if I smiled more.

My response contained exactly the lack of deference that infuriates men like Broseph, who believe their every utterance should be hung upon with rapt attention and fluttering eyelashes.

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15 minutes later a flash flood of rage hit:

 

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In refusing to humble myself before Broseph’s almighty bullshit opinion I’d unleashed what he really thought about women, and their desire for self-agency and equality.

My, oh my, how the wheels came off his fragile white wagon, as Dude Bro revealed he has serious rape issues.

 

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You read that right!

Mr. I’m As Supportive Of Any Issues Of Any Gender Or Sex As You’ll Find A Man To Be thinks anything short of rape is a women crying ‘Wolf!’  while simultaneously accusing me of being A-Okay with rape and sexual harassment because I told him, “It’s not about you.”

Never mind that the Bill Clinton rape charges are as bogus as Broseph’s claims of  Feminism: I had the audacity to tell Broseph he was re-framing Tawanda’s original, uncomfortable point on toxic masculinity, and replacing it with a Fragile White Male’s musings on Justin Timberlake – therefore he was justified in claiming I supported the single most damaging thing that had ever happened to me in my life.

Broseph – not content with lying about my condoning rape, and pulling a grand Whataboutism about the Clintons directly out of his ass to change the subject – felt he hadn’t QUITE gotten his point across, so he posted a gif of a woman circling her ear with her finger, in the classic ‘you’re crazy’ mime.

Much adult! Such dignified!!

This is classic Fragile White Male behavior. They believe with all their heart that verbal abuse is an appropriate way to interact with a woman who won’t be cowed, and dares to question their behavior as it relates to the continual need to re-frame everything in a way that makes them comfortable.

What else could I do, but toss a few more logs on to the bonfire of his rage?

 

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Fragile White Males ADORE being dismissed even more than being told “It’s not about you.” They NEVER have to have the last, ugly words.

 

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You really HAVE to admire an ego that has been so tenderly cultivated in the rich loam of White Male Privilege that he believes he is As Good As A Man Can Be, and to question HIM is to attack the very movement I’m asking him to respect.

Put your arms around that: He ACTUALLY equated asking him not to re-frame women’s definitive statements on sexism and misogyny as attacking #MeToo.

The only people capable of attaining and maintaining an ego that GARGANTUAN in this society have the good fortune to born a white male.

Furious that I hadn’t taken the bait, Broseph gave one last, feeble shot that read more like the Ambien had kicked in, rather than the stinging invective he imagined it to be.

 

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Ahh – THERE it is!

‘If you are married to a man, I feel bad for him..’

The final refuge of the Fragile White Male who is powerless to cow a woman who approaches him as an equal: Imply she can’t land a cock, and if by some miracle she did it’s a Pity Fuck.

You know – because ALL women are heterosexual, and we aren’t complete without a good, deep dicking.

Almost the only men who act like this are white dudes privileged enough to grow up with such unquestioned power they believe it’s their just due for the rest of society to put so much stock in their opinion that it cancels out our actual experience.

For those of you Men who would never act like this? Great. Thank you – you’re doing what any decent person should do. But, it’s not enough to see that Fragile White Male behavior is wrong. You need to SAY SOMETHING – tell them to knock their shit off

The uncomfortable fact is: If you don’t speak up against Fragile White Male behavior you are not an Ally – you’re a Silent Accomplice.

I guaran-damn-tee you there are Brosephs all around us, springing up like poisoned toadstools, pushing back against #MeToo, and redefining its meaning to fit their own privileged need not to feel uncomfortable.

Look: Nothing will change until those of you white men who have power (read: ALL of you) demand that their brethren share it with those of us who don’t.

I know this piece will cause most men discomfort. Tough. It’s time you look good and hard and ask yourself if you have been a Broseph, or enabled him with your silence.

If you don’t see yourself here? Great. I appreciate the Ally. Really, I do. But, I don’t want to hear about it.

It’s not about you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck and Cover, kids!!

Part of the soundtrack of my youth was the eerie blaring of air raid sirens being tested at precisely 10 am on the last Friday of every month. I was 4 when I first asked my mother what the disturbing noise was. “They’re sirens to warn us when Russian airplanes attack,” she answered vaguely, hustling me along the sidewalk to the commercial interview she was taking me to. At my wide-eyed look she assured me, “It’s just a test.”

A month later the same sound sent me outside the house in shivers of fear, scanning the skies for planes (always the reporter), and any bombs they might be dropping. It was only then that my mother thought to explain that the tests happened every month at the same time. Young Reporter Claudia demanded clarification of Exactly When they went off every month, and never forgot it.

I distinctly remember the sounds of the unsynchronized sirens whirring to life – each just a fraction of a second off from the other – and their high-pitched oscillating tones warning of danger. When the test was over and the sirens finally stopped, their wailing echoed for a few lingering moments over the San Fernando Valley. Thinking about the keening, undulating sound long enough begins to put a clench in my jaw and stomach.

Part of the curriculum in the Los Angeles Unified School District in the 1950s, 60s and 70s was repeating the Duck and Cover drills we learned in kindergarten from cheerful films featuring catchy jingles, Bert the cartoon turtle, and calm, well-dressed white children. The films spoke confidently and repeatedly of WHEN The Bomb would drop – not if. 9 months a year for 13 years every child attending school in Los Angeles was vigilant for the inevitable, inescapable flash of our doom, and as air raid sirens howled above us we learned to cower under the magical safety of a laminated Formica desk.  (Link to Duck and Cover propaganda film)

As the sirens warned of impending doom the teachers turned off the lights and closed the blinds, and we students would kneel under our desks on the linoleum floor, our fingers laced behind our necks, forearms over our ears, and elbows shielding our faces. We were told to keep our eyes shut, and our faces hidden in our clothes.

While we crouched with hidden faces, the siren’s mournful monthly tune ended and became nothing but a discordant echo over cheaply built post-war housing. We waited until we heard a long bell being wrung by Mrs. Hale, our Principal, signifying the ‘All Clear’. It was during one of those drills that I first felt the suffocating quicksand of claustrophobia.

The exercise ended with the entire school huddled under our desks, pretending a bomb would explode near us. The bell would ring – and Scene! We would return to our studies, the subtext of the ritual was that we had all just died.

Here’s the unvarnished truth about Duck and Cover: Nobody ever gave us instructions on what we should do *after* the bomb dropped. There was never any talk of what to do when we were done ducking and covering, no warnings about food or water or radiation poisoning. We didn’t even have instructions to wait for instructions.

The inference was that if we ever heard the Russian planes overhead everything was over. ‘Kiss your ass goodbye’ was a phrase commonly used, and most people figured ‘They’ll never try it, and if they do? We’re all dead, but they are, too.’

The drill went on year after year – long past the point of being of any use to the children repeating it – until it became normalized and just more Cold War theater

Whether or not the adults around us would acknowledge it, their unconscious behavior affected how we reacted – we took our cues from them. They knew there was no surviving a direct hit & we picked up their signals.

We were told to kneel and patiently await our fate when we heard the sounds of air raid sirens. Deep inside all of us knew that if the missiles actually flew the lights and the shades and the command to Duck and Cover were nothing more than busy work to fill the time until we were incinerated in a flash.

***

At 6 am on February 9, 1971, the Russians finally attacked. I awoke to the sound of air raid sirens and explosions that were so big it moved the ground beneath me. I heard shouting, and the ground shook even harder – the earth itself was making a grinding noise as books and games flew off of my shelves, raining down on me. Instinctively I hid my face as I sat up in bed. Abruptly the shaking stopped, but the sirens went on. I was in shock as my father hollered “EARTHQUAKE!!! Get out of the house!!” I had no idea what he was shouting to me.

In all their preparations for nuclear war it had never occurred to any of the adults to mention earthquakes to the California kids living on the San Andreas fault. No one thought to tell us the sirens could be used for emergencies other than nuclear war. I mistook a 6.6 quake for World War 3, and awoke certain I was dying in a mushroom cloud. The heaving ground and exploding transformers only served to underline that mistaken notion that the world was coming to an end. It’s not the kind of thing you forget.

It puzzled me as I grew older how so many of my classmates relegated the jolly propaganda films that promised a terrifying death via radiation to the farthest corners of their minds. By the 1980s the drills had ceased, and most folks seemed to forget what the sirens were – they became just another background noise people ignored. Almost no-one noticed when the Los Angeles Civil Air Defense sirens were permanently silenced in 1986.

 

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I don’t envy anyone with young children right now, because they’re going to be freaked out by what happened in Hawaii – how can they not? It’s utterly fucked up, and in the days to come they’ll be exposed to over-stressed adults and videos of panic and terror. Hopefully they’ll also see clips of parents trying to protect their children, (the video of the father putting his crying children into the storm drain in which he cannot fit is heartbreaking – but also a moment of the purest love and sacrifice) and there will be adults around them who are calm and reassuring.

Keep in mind that children already have their own version of Duck and Cover when they practice mass casualty shooting drills every month. There are seniors graduating in June of 2018 who have been practicing this horror-show drill their whole lives, just like I practiced waiting for the bomb to drop. The heartbreaking thing is that some of these students, and a few of their teachers, won’t get to see graduation day because their lives will be cut short in a flash from the muzzle of a gun. The added burden of the threat of global thermonuclear war between two madmen seems especially cruel.

None of it’s fair, or particularly sane, but it’s where we are as a country right now. This is who we are.

For the moment we are at the mercy of an aggressive, ignorant, rageaholic narcissist who suffers delusions of grandeur, likely has dementia, and is itching to use nuclear weapons. For the moment.

On the bright side: After a few years in this pressure cooker of lunacy and danger we’re bound to have some really good art and music come out of it –  if we can pull together and #Resist long enough to outlast the bastard.

 

99 Red Balloons

Bullshit Positive Affirmations

Oh bullshit. I’m so tired of that trope and the whole notion that any of us is wholly responsible for our success. It’s classist and ignores the collective knowledge that mankind has gained off of the backs of others. It rejects the notion of role models, mentors and teachers and utterly fails to consider the opportunities afforded to those who are economically and racially privileged.

Yes, it’s that time of year. The New Year seems to encourage an avalanche of Bullshit Positive Affirmations shared on Facebook. BPAs are the annoying things people post and say that are supposed to encourage you to be the best person you can be. The illogicality of them frustrates me. I’m not sure if people actually believe this magical thinking, or they just think they should believe it.

 

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No. No, it’s not.

That is embracing the ridiculous notion that everything is within our control.

That’s saying that people born into poverty choose to stay that way if they are unable to break the cycle. That’s saying children in marginal schools could have a better education if only they tried harder. It’s saying that the children of privilege don’t have 2 legs up on everyone else when it comes to college and student loans.

Then there are the things that happen when we’re adults. Sometimes unexpected shitty things happen to us out of the blue. Sometimes a spouse leaves and takes all the money. Sometimes the stock market crashes because people you have no control over sold unsound financial investments and it wipes out your 401K. Sometimes you find yourself unemployed and unemployable when your job has been outsourced. Sometimes you get sick.

Life is not a static arrangement of events that can be planned. Life is messy and often catches you unaware.

 

BPA 17

 

I swear I am not making this up.

Someone actually posted this piece of cruelty to their timeline on New Year’s Day. I suppose they thought it was inspiring. Instead, it just sounds like they’ve been lucky enough not to have had something really bad happen to them.

Let’s see how his proclamation holds up, shall we?

“No more whiners. If you have cancer it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If you’re depressed it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If your company eliminates your department it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If you were hit by a drunk driver it’s because you let it get that way.

Oh, I could do this all day, but you get the idea.

 

BPA 2

 

Really? So I can be an astronaut? What about run a 4 minute mile or be the President? I can conceive being a trillionaire, are you saying that’s possible? It’d be nice to be a supermodel. I’d sure like to win a gold medal in swimming.

The problem is, no matter how much I can conceive or believe, those things aren’t going to happen. I could do everything possible to achieve any of those goals – everything possible – but none of them will happen.

That’s because there are things we can’t do. I know it’s hard for the snowflake generation (I’m looking at YOU boomers) to hear that, but it’s true. Not all of us are exceptional and there are limits to what we can do and it’s time we accepted that fact.

 

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I hate this one most of all.

It’s especially galling to those of us with depression. Oh – I could just wish myself better? I can choose whether I have this disease or not? Why didn’t you say so! That really would have saved me a lot of trouble had somebody told me sooner. I feel just like Dorothy with her magical ruby slippers – the power was in me the whole time!

People think they’re being helpful when they post BPAs, but they’re not. Those of us who have had life intrude on our well planned path understand that these clichés are not helpful, and only serve to make the reader feel negative when they read it. The notion that you can think your way to success is foolish and doesn’t benefit anyone.

It seems like people who share BPAs are looking for an easy answer to the tangled reality of life. The problem is that hoary bromides don’t straighten out tangles or cure diseases.

It’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to be positive nor have happy thoughts. But, I’d prefer my positive affirmations to be less filled with bullshit and a little more realistic. I prefer my affirmations to be things we can all actually do.

 

BPA 7

 

Manners – it could become a cause of the day and go viral like the ice bucket challenge. People would be posting videos of themselves waiting patiently in line to say please and thank you to supermarket workers and food servers or being polite to random strangers on the street. The cool thing is that you wouldn’t have to pledge a damn dime, and it would bring a wealth of benefits for society. Although it would involve a greater effort than hitting the share button for a useless platitude, it could work.

How about:

 

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Or:

 

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Or, even simply:

 

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It could happen.

All I’m saying is that if we’re going to encourage ourselves to do better lets aim for things we can actually do that make our little corner of the world a better place.

Let’s avoid the BPAs. They’re worthless and may serve to just make someone feel worse.

I have to admit there is one positive thing I don’t mind sharing. It’s something I really believe in, a cause close to my heart, and it’s something that I would really encourage everyone to do.

It doesn’t cost a penny, and doesn’t ask you to do anything unethical or immoral. It’s something that can be practiced without show in both public and the privacy of your own home.

It is, in fact the antithesis of a Bullshit Positive Affirmation:

 

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Now, that’s something I can really get behind.

 

**Originally published Jan 5, 2015 – Republished Jan 3, 2018, with minor edits**